The ‘Hole’ Story: Part 2

The ‘Hole’ Story: My Two Months of Hell in the Taipei Detention Center

By ‘M’

Read Part One here.

So there I was in Sanxia… It was Christmas Eve, December 24th. We arrived there around 8 pm. There was a crew of police officers in different uniforms, more serious, cold and analytical. There were female police officers, too. They had yellow envelopes for each of us. They took any valuable possession and put that into the envelopes — money, phone, rings, piercings, absolutely everything that costs money. We were asked if we want to claim something important, or say something that maybe they needed to know.

I had nothing. No phone, 200nt (about US$8). They took off all my piercings, my toe ring and sealed the envelope. They searched my bag and took away my medicine, painkillers, two sleeping pills and my migraine meds.

“We’ll consult a doctor if you can have this. Next.” They took a photo of each person and made a prison ID for us. Every person had a number. I was 3992. That number was our name inside. We were numbers, not people. They made us wear our ID at all times and there was a punishment or yelling each time somebody would misplace it, or god forbid lose it. Washing toilets, cleaning beds, serving food, no phone calls for a week, no visit — those were the punishments. Everybody made sure our ID was always hanging around our neck (it was a small plastic nametag with picture inside and a very thin string).

After we got the ID we lined up and got taken to a physical check. The women who were doing that told us to take off our clothes, get naked, or in our underwear, touching, looking, shouting, rushing us like cattle, like we were sheep. I hated them at that moment, and I lost my temper, telling one of the guards “Yeah… You like that don’t you. Here. I have nice tits. Grab them, they’re much better than yours!” ha ha ha I liked pushing their buttons later on. Some of the guards were rude and disrespectful to all, the others, I can’t complain. Nice, very nice, funny, human.

I will remember those women. Some of them really made my stay there easier. I can’t lie. They spoke to me when I was sad or lonely, made sure I get my medicine (if I needed it), tried to make me eat more in a nice way, gave me things other guards wouldn’t. Some of them really wanted me out and safe, home. Each day they reminded me to be strong, that soon I was going to be out and be happy again. I am thankful to three of them. The rest of them were BITCHES, major biyatches I loathed!

We were all tested for pregnancy, x-rayed for TBC, gave blood etc. There was a doctor who was there 3 times a week, but nothing in that place was free. The doctor, the toothbrush, toothpaste, socks, tissues –everything cost money at Sanxia. Most of the women spend their money on phone cards. Me too. Talking 10 minutes on the phone was the sane time, time for tears, time for joy, time for hope. Phone calls… ahhh the voice on the other side meant so much, reassuring you, loving you, giving you news. Any kind of news was better than none.

There was a lot of arguing and fighting inside because of the phone cards or the calling time. Girls were going nuts if someone talked more than 10 minutes or someone cut the line. It was insane.

The first 5 days when you enter Sanxia, you’re not allowed to talk to the others, cry or leave the isolation corner. There was a cage inside — a cage. Ha! Yes! The isolation corner. So there I was inside the isolation cage for Christmas and New Year. Wicked! Imagine spending two holidays you usually spend laughing with friends, family, boozing, smoking, dancing… Well, this time you can’t! You must sit on a floor, dressed in an orange and neon green jumpsuit, hungry because the food is crap, and not allowed to talk or walk! That was some major BS. I walked anyway. I left the corner and went to the bathroom a lot, just so I could stretch my legs or not go crazy.

I was the only “white face” inside. There were groups of women – from the Philippines, China, Vietnam and Thailand. No Americans, no Canadians, no Europeans, no Aussies, no Kiwis. Nope. Just me! Alone… And everybody else in groups. Eating in groups, showering in groups, making phone calls or playing cards in groups. The Filipinas got very close with me and took me under their wing. The Vietnamese women were bitchy and very selfish, always causing fights and noise. The Chinese or Thai were the snappy ones. You never know what they would do next. The Filipinas were gossiping, dancing and sharing. I didn’t like the gossip, but I did feel like they were the most comfortable to be around.

There was a list of their countries on one board and a time they can make a phone call each day. There was no ‘Europe’ or any other country written on the board so they kind of screwed around at the beginning, always telling me I couldn’t make a phone call because it’s not my time — that it’s theirs. I literally lost my shit one day because of this and nearly smacked one Chinese woman in the face with the phone receiver because she was not letting me dial. All the Filipinos started yelling at China and Vietnam, defending me, all the noise, and the mess… ay yay yai! Drama! Chaos… Every day… Every single day was drama and cheesy karaoke shit! Finally the boss of the guards entered, told me very politely to calm down, told everybody something very fast in Chinese and yelled at them.

Finally she said it in English: “From today, 6612 can call home or her loved ones whenever she wants, is that clear?” She looked at me and told me, “No more than 10 minutes M—. ” I was so happy, she said my name. My name. Not the number, but my name. And she defended me. It was a big step forward in that accursed place. From that day on that woman and 2 other guards helped me and took care of me in a way.

Read Part 3.

7 thoughts on “The ‘Hole’ Story: Part 2

  • June 17, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Why are you judging her? The point of the story is not her freaking overstay, she is just sharing her experience so if anybody gets in a similar situation they would at least be prepared and know what to expect. As for her overstay, who here knows WHY she overstayed…she must have had a good enough reason to risk it…things in life don’t always go as planned…I personally think it’s great that she shared her experience writing this story…

  • June 14, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    I’m finding this story fascinating. I hope I can remember to check this site again for the latest installment.

    I’m a former English teacher in Taiwan (now back in the US) who got put in jail in the Philippines for doing something stupid- and yes I probably deserved it- though I was certainly not prepared for the conditions of the jail, the danger and corruption. I saw some crazy shit, believe me. I would imagine a stay in a Taiwanese jail would be very nice by comparison. I was only in there a week though it seemed like an eternity at the time.

    Anyway, I’ll keep reading. If you have a twitter account, follow me at @samueladams13.

  • June 14, 2011 at 6:58 pm

    whyguoren is right. you were in the country ILLEGALLY for TWO YEARS and you would have continued working illegally in the country longer if you hadn’t been arrested for something else. what did you think would happen? you were placed in a detention center for a couple months — not a jail. i’ve been to both here and there’s a big difference. the detention center in sanxia is like a holiday inn compared to the prison in taoyuan. i don’t know that two months in detention is mandatory. i’m guessing you didn’t have the money to pay the fine for your two-year overstay so had to stay in a detention center. and i would bet money that you won’t overstay your visa in taiwan or any other country again.

    let the story be a lesson to others. also, you’re really writing a book about two months in a detention center in taiwan? like you’re the only woman to have spent two months in a detention center. 20 years in a bangkok prison would be interesting. two months? sucks for you, but plenty of people doing waaaaay longer sentences than two months — and they’re serving time in real prisons, not detention centers.

  • June 14, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    That drunk driver who got convicted isnt in Jail and hasnt spent a day in jail yet. He is appealing his case.

    As for the lady overstaying 2 years, did she expect to just walk out of Taiwan with a small fine? There are penalties for overstaying and I guess she just took her chances on what they would be. Ask he what happens to people who overstay in her country for 2 years.

    If you cant do the time don’t commit the crime.

  • June 14, 2011 at 6:18 am

    Um…Why is anyone shocked about what happened to her? She broke the law and was put in jail for it. What do you people think jail is? A resort vacation? Nothing shocking about this story at all IMHO. Did she deserve 2 months in jail? I don’t really think it’s appropriate but you gotta be prepared to pay if you’re gonna break the law. Especially in a foreign country.

  • June 13, 2011 at 6:43 am


    R: FOREIGNERS living in Taiwan: This is an important, relevant story that EVERYONE should read. Also, don’t overstay your visa unless you’re rich (being white doesn’t make a difference). This situation is disgraceful, and Trista is the only person I know who’s exposing these atrocities. Go, Trista, go!

    S: I don’t know, but I would bet money that being white does make a difference. Of course it shouldn’t. If publicizing this story helps in any way to make a difference for the countless people that are exploited, imprisoned, and deported then I hope the author of this article realizes that she made a difference, even if it was horrible for her.

    T: M’s story is a cautionary tale, too. Perhaps some people don’t realize how serious the consequences may be…

    O: very scary …your are very brave speaking out , I hope that you do not get in trouble for it ….

  • June 11, 2011 at 4:03 am

    This is awesome stuff, Trista. I hope you really can help find justice for these people.

    Meanwhile, what about that falsely-accused foreigner “drunk driver” (passenger) who’s in jail now? I’d love an update on that unfortunate dude.

    Thanks for all your hard work. You really do have a unique (and shockingly unheard) voice here in the Taipei media scene. Great seeing you at potluck, sorry I was such a social butterfly, but kinda, that’s my job, haha. Luv ya! Torch


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